Insurer CareFirst launches virtual-first healthcare platform

Blue Cross Blue Shield insurer CareFirst has launched a new virtual care practice for its nearly three million commercial members across Maryland, DC and Northern Virginia.

The new virtual-first offering is called CloseKnit and provides a variety of services, including preventative, primary and urgent care, behavioral and mental healthcare, care coordination and insurance navigation.

Available for download in the Apple and Google app stores, the CloseKnit platform offers care all-day, every day from credentialed providers. When needed, CloseKnit’s providers can make referrals for in-person care at local healthcare facilities, the announcement said.

“Our practice is adaptable and ready to conveniently respond to the unique needs of our patients virtually and in-person when necessary,” Mary Jane Favazza, CEO of CloseKnit, said in a statement.

“For those who aren’t looking for a primary care provider, we can be there for urgent services. Helping people understand the value of primary care, how to navigate the healthcare system and what things will cost ahead of time is core to our mission: providing accessible, affordable and comprehensive care to people with transparency and accountability.”

WHY THIS MATTERS

CareFirst is pitching CloseKnit as a way to close healthcare gaps, especially those for primary care.

“We created CloseKnit because people deserve an enhanced, modern care experience that meets their expectations, needs and preferences for choice in how they connect and experience care,” Brian Pieninck, president and CEO of CareFirst, said in a statement.

“Nearly 40% of our members don’t have a primary care doctor. CloseKnit helps fill critical gaps for many patients, particularly those who lack a PCP, including expanding our valued network of providers and making it easy to access the care they seek 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Across the U.S. healthcare landscape, a decreasing proportion of patients have a primary care provider, according to research conducted by Harvard Medical School. The study found that from 2002 to 2015, the percentage of Americans with a primary care physician decreased from 77% to 75%.

The downward trend raises concerns for the study’s authors, who note that people who have primary care have longer, healthier lives and tend to be happier with their care. They pitched increasing the use of novel patient-clinician interactions, like telemedicine, as one way to overcome this gap.

THE LARGER TREND

Spurred by the pandemic, patients today have a number of options for their virtual health needs.

Some prominent names in the world of digital primary care include Crossover Health, which recently released a wellness platform after it raised $168 million in Series D funding, and Forward Health, which also brought in a massive $225 million Series D funding round this year.

Firefly Health closed a $40 million Series B funding round in April for its platform that gives patients a comprehensive care team made up of a primary care physician, nurse practitioner, health guide and behavioral health specialist.

App-based primary care provider 98point6 this year enhanced its platform with an integrated behavioral health offering that includes therapy, condition diagnosis, health coaching and digital programming. 

There’s also Plushcare, which was purchased by the public health navigation company Accolade in April.

 

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